Everyone has different goals. Some people want to gain ten pounds, others want to lose the same. Some people want (or need) to make more money, others just want to get away from their high-paying careers and spend some time with their kids.
No two life situations are the same—and that goes for freelancers who are thinking about their career goals for 2017 as well. Perhaps you need to find a way to pick up more and better clients, increase your income, or learn to focus better and increase your efficiency.
Maybe it’s just as simple as setting the goal of waking up earlier and getting more done in those quiet morning hours.
No matter what your goals, there are many ways to approach them, so we decided to examine what tends to work and what doesn’t.
Determine What You Really Want
It’s impossible to set goals if you don’t know what you really want, right?
These answers may, at first, seem obvious: Maybe you want to make enough money to pay off your student loans, but at what cost to your work/life balance? Are you willing to work 18 hours a day (we hope not) every day to achieve that goal as soon as possible? Maybe, after you take a few minutes to think about a goal like this, you realize that your true goal is to work toward paying off your student loans while also taking ample time to enjoy yourself.
Only you can know what you really want—but only if you actually take the time to explore your perspectives.
Once you do determine what it is you want, then you can focus on the task of getting what you want.
How to Set Goals and Make More Money From Freelancing
A Washington Post interview with Wharton School of Business Professor Andrew Carton can help us understand how to better set goals:
- Be clear. “Another study found that people who think about the future in concrete rather than abstract terms are less likely to procrastinate. By making the future more vivid, it becomes very real to us and we prioritize it more,” said Carton.
- Don’t only set clear goals, but also imagine how you will feel when you achieve those goals. For a freelancer, this might mean imagining how you will feel walking to the bank to deposit that big check from a project you wanted to land, or imagining yourself taking the trip you never had the time or the money to take. Set the goal first, imagine yourself achieving the goal second, and then actually go out and achieve the goal.
“When setting goals, people often shoot for the moon and then become discouraged,” he said. “I want to lose 30 lbs this year. That’s intimidating, so I’ve made my resolution to lose 10 lbs three times. The same works in your business. I want to earn an extra $50K this year, so my goal is to sell an extra $920 per week.”
Once the goals are set, Elster emphasized that maintaining momentum and having people hold you accountable are also important.
“Make your goal part of your daily routine and don’t break it,” he said. “Many people are too hard on themselves, no need to punish yourself. If you miss a goal, don’t wait until tomorrow to get back on track. Start that second.”
That’s the way to hold yourself accountable—don’t beat yourself up, don’t allow yourself to be consumed by negativity, but instead just step up and work on the next task that needs to be completed. And then move on to the next task after that, and so on. This is especially important for freelancers to keep in mind, because you don’t have a boss to motivate you if you are falling behind. You have to not only run your business, but also motivate yourself on a daily basis to sit down and do the work.
“Freelancers have total agency over their lives,” said Elster. “They’re solely responsible for their condition. That’s a beautiful thing. Your goals can be anything. Want to make six figures? Work three days a week? Fire someone? You can do whatever you need to live the life you want.”
What Elster is describing is the freelancer’s dream—that “total agency” over your life, but you have to have control over yourself and you have to achieve your goals in order to earn that freedom.
New Year, New You: Set Boundaries and Be a More Efficient Freelancer
As we are thinking about goals, we should also think about some of the things that can bog us down, and work to remove those obstacles.
Elster uses the example of setting boundaries with people: “If you don’t tell people how to treat you, they’ll decide. It’s why many freelancers are busy and stressed instead of productive and profitable. As an example of firm boundary setting, I have this in my email signature: ‘To stay 100% productive for my clients, I can’t take unscheduled phone calls, and I check my email twice a day.’”
He uses Inbox Pause to make sure he sticks to this self-imposed boundary.
Everyone’s boundaries are going to be different, so this element of changing the way you approach your freelance business is wholly dependent on you and your lifestyle. You have to take some time for self-examination, and be honest in determining the issues you might be facing as a freelancer. Do you check Facebook every twenty minutes, each time allowing yourself to be distracted and lose focus?
Do you pick up your phone every time someone texts you, and then find yourself playing Super Mario Run (guilty) for an hour?
Do you spend so much time staring at your computer screen that your physical and mental health are suffering? Would taking a walk or going for a jog not only make you healthier, but also make you come back to your work with a renewed focus and increased creativity?
Setting your goals, including self-imposed limits, can help you to not only increase your bottom line, but also to improve the quality of your life—even if your only goal in 2017 is something relatively small, such as to become more efficient by disabling internet browsing for certain periods of time while you focus on a project. But, if you reach the goal of developing that useful habit, how much of a positive impact could a small change like that have on your life?
The only way to know is to give it a shot, and then to tackle the next goal on your list.